July 20, 2011
Having obtained a few 2000 gram balloons from Kaymont, the UCSD balloon team decided to make an attempt at a higher-than-normal sounding launch. Typical sounding flights had been conducted with 1500 gram balloons, which would get us to about 85,000 ft. With these larger balloons were were hoping to break 100,000 ft.
David Tape Machine:
This was the most exciting device on board. Designed and manufactured by our very own David Hernandez, the David Tape Machine, or DTM, holds two rolls of 1" wide Scotch tape. The rolls are set up to spool into each other, sandwiching particles between the two sticky sides, and then spooling onto a third reel. The DTM is run by an arduino programmed to spool the tape a few inches every 10,000 feet of altitude. This way we can see what particles exist at different altitudes in the atmosphere. After retrieval we can take the tape out of the device and analyze the captured particles using a scanning electron microscope on campus.
Go Pro Camera:
A Go Pro camera in a water-proof case was strapped to the outside of the payload box. It was pointed outwards horizontally to get a nice view of the extremely high altitude.
Tiny Video Camera:
This little gadget is inappropriately labelled "voice recorder," but is in fact a tiny video camera for less than $10! (Sure, it can record sound, but the fact that video comes with it sort of a big deal....) We had one of these strapped to the outside looking at the DTM.
Byonics MT 300:
A Byonics Micro-Trak 300 was flown on board. We used a 15.5 inch whip antenna, also from Byonics. We used a Garmin GPS manufactured to work above 60,000 ft.
SPOT GPS Messenger:
We flew one Spot, strapped to the top of our payload box. We always, always fly two tracking systems to be safe.
We launched near a geothermal plant on the east side of the Brawley farm fields. The low wind levels were surprising, and ended up making the process much nicer. Consequentially, the larger balloon did not give us nearly as much of a hard time as we had anticipated, and fill went very well.
Mr. Earnest from Mt. Carmel High School saw our launch, along with several members of their HAM and radio club. It was great having them there to see everything first hand!
We had some issues verifying that the Spot could hit the internet. After some deliberating we decided to mount it on the exterior, whereby it got a lock and we proceeded with our launch schedule.
The horizontal orientation of the MT 300 antenna and low output power caused us to only get two packets through to the internet for the entire launch. We were able to verify that it was transmitting using a Yaesu handheld, and we do know that we broke 100,000 ft from one of these packets. Thankfully the folks from Mt. Carmel High were able to help us troubleshoot and helped us learn a few things about antennas and their orientations.
Fortunately for us, the SPOT kicked in on the decent and we knew exactly where it had landed. Unfortunately for us, we had to hike 4 kilometers through a bombing range in 109 degree heat to get it. After the kind folks at the bombing range gave us the all clear to pick up our balloon we had no choice but to hike out into the desert, but we did so without any issues and recovered everything successfully.
The DTM did function for the entire flight, and only suffered minor damages upon impact at landing. We could see the gradation of materials with altitude, but without a logger, are not confident enough in our results to post anything conclusive.
The maximum altitude for this flight was estimated to be at about 106,000 feet, making it the highest altitude flight conducted by our team to date.
The Go Pro got some spectacular footage, but only lasted for about 2 hours before going out.
The tiny camera lasted for less than that, and its view was shifted during flight so we could not see the DTM. We recommend it for those who need a really, really cheap way of taking video, but note that it will not capture video of the entire flight.